After you have these questions answered you are ready to start on the prowl for the kind that best fits your needs. Every cook has a passion for the pots and pans they used to whip up gourmet or comfort food creations.
But pots and pans are made from several materials, not all of them adequate to cook foods evenly or efficiently. To start, the thickness and the type of metal the vessel is made makes a difference in how evenly the heat is distributed to the cooking food.
The finish on the metal’s surface also affects how efficiently the cookware performs. To be a good heat conductor, stainless steel needs to have a thick copper or aluminum bottom or be fully clad (aluminum and/or copper smashed between two sheets of stainless steel.
This type cookware needs a small amount of butter or oils to keep food from sticking. Do not ever use spray oils on this type, it will leave a filmy residue that cause food to burn or stick.
There is a minor risk of the metal leaching into foods if you constantly deep scrape or gouge the sides or bottoms of the pans. Thin gauge aluminum pans will warp if subjected to rapid temperatures changes, such as going from a hot stove to a cold water bath.
However, thick gauge aluminum examples have excellent heat distribution and will not warp easily. To clean stained aluminum, fill the pan with water, add one tablespoon of cream of tartar and boil for 15 minutes.
Nonstick Made from aluminum, this cookware is good for the low-fat chef because you don’t have to add fat to keep things from sticking, than this is your choice. This means that your fat intake will be lowed because you are not adding more due to sticking.
Hard Anodized Again normally made from aluminum, this cookware needs a small amount of butter or oils to keep food from sticking. Corning Ware or Pyrex will resist most such stresses, so choose wisely if you prefer cooking or baking with glassware.
The oil will seal the pores and add a minimal nonstick surface. Normally, I just wipe out used oil and gunk with a paper towel while the frying pan is still warm.
Should your frying pan show signs of rust, it can easily be removed by rubbing the area with a sand and vegetable oil mix. Either based on cast iron or much thinner rolled steel, enameled cookware was one of the original nonstick coatings.
Though corrosion -resistant, the cookware can chip if gouged with a sharp utensil or hit against another object. They transfer the heat very well from you stove to your food though they are not suitable for induction ranges.
However, copper pans should have a liner of tin or stainless steel to prevent the metal from leaching into foods. Foods with high acid content will release copper ions, so that metal liner needs to be replaced occasionally.
Black soot or carbon deposits will affect the distribution of heat. If it’s inexpensive, the copper that is covering the bottom of that stainless steel pan is nothing more than a thin flash; not enough to distribute heat efficiently or evenly.
“Real” copper cookware distributes heat uniformly on the sides of the pans as well as on the bottom. A plastic handle may break which is no small thing when carrying a hot pan of soup.
Solid metal handles get hot requiring a pot holder to carry from one place to the next. On the upside, cookware with solid metal handles can be put in the over or under the broiler with no problem.
A metal handle won’t break and in fact, some come riveted giving them added strength. You may find cookware that comes with removable handles that fit into various pieces within the set.
I have seen some cheap cookware sets that will only last a few months under good conditions and it was too thin to protect the food from burning. Cookware should have good thick bottoms to ensure that the heat source spreads out throughout the cooking surface.
Regardless of the cost, before buying cookware that lasts get a feel for what’s out on the store shelves. Most sets come with five commonly used pieces which may include: a stockpot with a lid, a 2-3 qt cooking saucepan with lid, 9.5-11 inch fry pan, most have another small omelet skillet and smaller sauce pan.
Whether you choose to go the nonstick, less expensive route or if paying more for a durable set that lasts a lifetime tempts you, having some knowledge before buying cookware that lasts will help you purchase the product that suits you best. If the bottom of a pan is warped (which can create hot spots that burn food), or if handles are loose or broken, it’s time to shop.
We buy and test cookware sets ranging from less than $100 to $600 or more, from well-known brands such as All-Clad, Anglo, Clifton, Cuisinart, and Willing J.A. Heckles, as well as sets sold under the names of celebrity cooks like Ayesha Curry, Rachel Ray, and the Pioneer Woman.
CR’s take: The 12-piece Cuisinart Green Gourmet nonstick set aces all our key cooking tests. We were able to easily maintain sauce at a low simmer, and the 6-quart Dutch oven quickly brings water to a near-boil.
With Excellent ratings on both our cooking evenness and speed of heating tests, the Greenspan stands up to the competition. The coating appears pebbly, but that doesn’t affect its nonstick properties, and we effortlessly cooked pancakes and eggs.
Cooking evenness is superb, and this 8-piece set aces our speed of heating test by quickly bringing 4 quarts of water to a near-boil in the 5-quart stockpot. The surface stands up to our durability test, in which we rub steel wool over the coating 2,000 times, earning a Very Good rating.
Simmering a sauce produces impressive results, and this set earns a Very Good rating for cooking evenness. Heckles Motion Grey is made of anodized aluminum and works with any type of range.
Simmering in the saucepan, however, is only so-so, and the eggs needed nudging out of the pan in our food release test. Clifton designed this set so that it stacks and nests, which frees up precious cabinet space.
The Clifton Premier Space Saving 8-piece stainless set earns a Very Good rating in our evenness tests, like our other top performers in this category. The stainless handles are long and sturdy, and you can use these dishwasher-safe pots and pans on any type of range, including induction.
It earns an Excellent rating on our cooking evenness test, and when we brought 4 quarts of water to a near-boil in the 6-quart stockpot, speed of heating was also impressive. Its performance in our food release test, however, was subpar, so if you like to fry eggs, you may want to stick to a nonstick skillet.
Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials “H.J.” While there’s nothing wrong with collecting pots and pans one at a time, a cookware set offers something that singular pieces don’t: cohesion.
Before you can equip your kitchen with this essential, there are a few key things to consider, including your usual cooking routine and level of expertise. Many of the top cookware styles are nonstick, stainless steel, and hard-anodized aluminum, though you’ll also find ceramic and cast iron options, which are ideal for cooking low and slow.
On the other hand, if you consider yourself a pro home chef, you may be ready to invest in something of higher quality that will not only take your cooking game even further, but also be with you for the long haul. Most cookware collections are available to shop online from familiar retailers like Amazon, SUR La Table, and Williams Sonoma.
We browsed thousands of online reviews from real shoppers and found the 10 best cookware sets to add to your kitchen this year. The all-in-one cookware set is also designed with hard-anodized aluminum which creates a hard, smooth surface and essentially makes each piece nonstick.
“This is a very sturdy and well-made set of pots and pans given the low price,” said one reviewer, adding that they’ve “been using them for a while and no scratches or wear is showing up.” It’s important to note, however, that these budget-friendly pieces are not dishwasher safe, so hand washing is a must. With 18 pieces included, this large cookware set has everything the average home cook could possibly need to whip up a good meal, from saucepans to a stockpot to slotted spoons.
With a price tag over $1,000, this set is certainly an investment, but the impeccable quality will make it worth every penny in the long run. The stainless steel exterior is reinforced with a sturdy copper core, which provides the best of both worlds: a sleek aesthetic and a quick and even heat distribution that results in perfectly cooked dishes every time.
One reviewer said they’re a “great investment” while another said: “I am in love with my collection,” and continued, “everyday cooking is a pleasure, from stove top to oven.” Shoppers love these pots and pans for their durability, even heat distribution, and super easy cleanup (they’re all dishwasher-safe!).
More than 4,200 Amazon shoppers left a positive rating for this set, with one calling it “the best cookware purchase” they’ve ever made. The classic stainless steel pots and pans each have an aluminum base that quickly and evenly distributes heat, and they’re dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup.
While a set from Le Crest may be on the pricier side, it’s built to stand up to years of use and will prove to be well worth the initial investment. This cookware set from Rachael Ray’s collection not only comes in fun pops of color, but it’s also designed with a Scot-free nonstick surface that’s safe to cook on and virtually eliminates the chance of any pesky food scraps sticking, tearing, or leaving behind a mess.
One shopper claimed these are “the best non-stick pans” they’ve ever used, and a whopping 300 reviewers specifically touted this set as being “easy to clean.” This 14-piece set from Total is designed to make cooking easier for beginners: the brand’s signature Thermostat feature indicates when the surface is at the right temperature, which helps create consistent dishes each and every time.
Anyone with limited storage space understands the struggle of attempting to strategically place bulky pots and pans into a kitchen cabinet and hoping they don’t come tumbling down next time you open the door.